Nomadic Kenyans suffering from drought, famine
Somali children receive medical treatment at a Turkish field hospital on August 19, 2011 in Mogadishu, Somalia.
September 18th, 2011
07:56 AM ET

Nomadic Kenyans suffering from drought, famine

By Gabe LaMonica, CNN

(CNN)–World Relief, a Christian evangelical aid organization, is collaborating with Kenyan churches and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to stem the tide of acute malnutrition across the northern region of Kenya called Turkana.

Famine today "is rarely mentioned anymore," said Don Golden, a senior vice president for World Relief based out of Baltimore. It is a word reserved strictly for Somalia, he said.

But famine, like a plague, spreads, and, "In reality it's a very large food security crisis involving a number of countries and millions at risk," said Golden, referring to the crisis situation in vast regions of east Africa.

"We have the means to stop famine," he said. "The only reason it is happening now is because of al-Shabab-controlled territory in Somalia."

According to Golden, refugees fleeing the al-Shabab-dominated famine areas of Somalia are exacerbating the situation in Turkana, a region already poor in resources. "The old saying is that droughts are natural disasters and famine is manmade," he said.

"Nearly one-quarter of the children in Turkana are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition," Golden said.

Turkana is drought-stricken and encompasses an area where a great body of evidence for early hominid development has been unearthed.

Areas east of the saltwater Lake Turkana have provided a boon for archaeologists, who have recovered fossils from the Pleistocene era; the first Australopithecus skull and Homo habilis were found here. In 1984,"Turkana boy," or Homo erectus or Homo ergaster was found here.

In a speech this March, then-U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger called Kenya a " 'have-not' country related to water ... with an average of less than 1,000 cubic meters available per person per year."

Americans have access to four times that much water.

Pastor Simon Ndegwa of Parklands Baptist Church in Nairobi, some 700 miles away from Turkana, said the people there "are first a community isolated, they are secondly a community facing conflict every day, and they are thirdly a community that's living in a terrain that's very, very challenging."

It is a terrain that Peter Smerdon, the chief of media relations at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF's) global headquarters in New York, is familiar with.

Do the Turkana have to change to survive?

"All the arid and semiarid areas have similar problems of lifestyle as to whether it continues or not," Smerdon said.

Stopping people from starving to death is different than enabling them to fend for themselves. "There's a way of helping that can hurt," said Ndegwa, who collaborates closely with World Relief.

"Sometimes interventions have the capacity to completely take away what's so valuable to a people," he said.

In the case of the Turkana, who are a pastoralist, animist people, what are valuable to them are their cattle and their ability to move around in search of pastures. Their nomadic tendencies take them across country and tribal borders.

"We shouldn't just throw these people on the dust heap and say look, your lifestyle is no longer permitted and you need to be a farmer," Smerdon said. Before coming to UNICEF, he was with the World Food Program operating out of northern Kenya.

"In 2006," he said, "the people who survived the drought the best were those who educated some of their children who now were working in big towns like Nairobi and able to send money back in order to supplement loss of livestock."

Smerdon and Golden agree that to create sustainability for an isolated people in today's interconnected world, there has to be a bridge. The answer then, lies in education.

Initially, in an emergency situation, "everyone is saying we want water and food," Smerdon said, "but at the end they are saying we want school fees."

In a modern world, people can survive famine by "giving up their way of life, settling in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and waiting for free food," Golden said.

"Educating schoolchildren is a way to change lifestyles" for isolated children growing into a globalized world and "therefore they can get a job and provide a lifeline (to their families) when there is a drought," Smerdon said.

"There's the emergency response but also very much a realization that you have to help communities build up their resistance and find other ways of earning money," he said.

Ndegwa said, "We must hear the cry of a vulnerable people, the Turkana, during their hour of need."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Kenya

soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. spring 2014

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    January 22, 2014 at 10:59 am |
  2. los angeles masonry

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    June 13, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  3. mSamuelle

    The curses on this land will take its course! But, we can join hearts here and ask God for mercy and may God will "suffer not the little children." The former generations were so disobedient to God's commandments and statutes and precepts. i.e., the ceremonial drinking of fresh cattle blood! To God's statutes, this act is an abomination! Seek God and you will find him! God found me too, in the desert land; in the howling wasted wilderness." But, I got no choice in the rotten quagmire of my past life; I thus, choose Life and not Death!

    September 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  4. Reality

    From p. 2:

    We have the means to stop famine," he said. "The only reason it is happening now is because of al-Shabab-controlled territory in Somalia."

    And who is al-Shabab?

    "The group is an off-shoot of the Islamic Courts Union, which splintered into several smaller organizations after its removal from power by Ethiopian forces in 2006.[6

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/al-shabaab-1#ixzz1YIyMRi48

    Add another koranic-driven atrocity to the following list:

    The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

    ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

    and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

    and more recently

    1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

    1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

    2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

    3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

    4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

    5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

    6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

    7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

    8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

    9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

    10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

    11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

    12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

    13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

    14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

    15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

    16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

    17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

    18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

    19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

    20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

    21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

    22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) – Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  5. Kebos

    So where is god, I ask you? Nowhere. Why? Because he doesn't exist. Jjust like every other national or global tragedy where god did not intervene. He did not for one simple reason. No god ever has, or ever will exist. Mankind solves mankind's problems.

    September 21, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  6. Sid

    herbert juarez is a spineless coward.

    September 20, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.